Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri, justified his opposition to all abortion, even in instances of rape, by saying that "legitimate rape" rarely leads to pregnancy — comments that have set off a media firestorm in an already contentious race.
In an interview with a St. Louis television station posted today, Akin said that female bodies "[have] ways to try to shut that whole thing down" and that only rapists, and not unborn children, should be punished.
“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV, in an interview first reported nationally by Talking Points Memo. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
“Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin continued. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”
Akin has since issued a statement saying he "misspoke" but did not reverse his position on abortion in the case of rape or incest, nor did he dispute the medical claims he made by citing doctors.
"It's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year. Those who perpetrate these crimes are the lowest of the low in our society and their victims will have no stronger advocate in the Senate to help ensure they have the justice they deserve," Akin said in the statement. "I recognize that abortion, and particularly in the case of rape, is a very emotionally charged issue. But I believe deeply in the protection of all life and I do not believe that harming another innocent victim is the right course of action. I also recognize that there are those who, like my opponent, support abortion and I understand I may not have their support in this election."
Akin's opponent, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, issued a statement calling Akin's remarks incomprehensible and "offensive."
"It is beyond comprehension that someone can be so ignorant about the emotional and physical trauma brought on by rape," McCaskill said. "The ideas that Todd Akin has expressed about the serious crime of rape and the impact on its victims are offensive."
Earlier this month, McCaskill and her Democratic allies spent more than $1 million in Missouri's Republican primary, according to the Sunlight Foundation, trying to boost the conservative Akin, largely viewed as the most politically vulnerable candidate in a state primed for a GOP pickup.